Two letters members of Congress wrote to the Defense Contract Audit Agency reveal two cases of employees of government contractors who alleged wrongdoing by their companies.
We learned about the letters from our Freedom of Information request to the agency for congressional correspondence logs. We have received DCAA’s responses to both members of Congress, but not the original letters to which DCAA was responding. When we receive those, we’ll post them, highlighting any relevant information from them.
Here’s what we do know:
On Jan. 5, 2007, Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., wrote to DCAA, which does all contract audits for the Department of Defense, concerning a letter her office had received from a whistleblower working for Advatech Pacific, Inc., a Redlands, Calif.-based space engineering company. The whistleblower claimed that the company was overcharging the government.
According to Fedspending.org, Advatech has received contracts worth more than $20 million from the Department of Defense since 2000. A large portion of the contracts given to Advatech are non-competitive; almost all the contracts the firm received in 2005 and 2006 appear to be no-bid contracts.
Advatech also was the beneficiary of congressional earmarks amounting to more than $10 million in 2005, according to the recently released OMB earmarks database. (Note: We’re still looking into why, but the OMB numbers for 2005 are higher than the amount of contract dollars listed in Fedspending.org’s database; one would expect the total dollar amount of contracts awarded by federal agencies to be higher than the amount.)
Last year, TPM Muckraker published a story noting connections between Advatech and a relative of Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., who chaired the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee from 1999 to 2005, and now serves as the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee. TPM Muckraker reported that Advatech executives were contributing to a political action committee that was led by Lewis’ step-daughter; the report also noted that the company’s earmarks came from the subcommittee Lewis chaired.
As to the whistleblower’s complaint about Advatech, calls to the Department of Defense Inspector General’s office and calls and emails to the DCAA elicited this refrain: This is an open investigation and we cannot talk about it.” Advatech Pacific has not returned our phone calls.
The second letter is a response to an initial inquiry from Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., about a constituent who claims to have been fired from his job a week after he reported an illegal procedure” related to a federal contract to both his company, Belcan Corporation, and the DCAA. In the reply, the DCAA wrote, Belcan Corporation has not been awarded any defense contracts subject to the DCAA audit” The complaint was made in 2005 and referred to the DOD Inspector General. (I am still following up with both the IG’s office and the DCAA on the status of this complaint.)
Belcan Corporation takes allegations of impropriety very seriously as reflected by our commitment to integrity. All matters of potential impropriety are immediately investigated and addressed,” said Mike Wirth, Chief Financial Officer, Belcan Corporation.
Recent provisions in the 2008 Defense authorization bill, introduced by Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., extend whistleblower protection to employees of defense contractors — whether or not the Belcan employee would have qualified, it’s clear that with so many taxpayer dollars going to private companies, those who report potential waste, fraud or abuse deserve legal protection.